Foreningen Trankebar

Trankebar 2016

By Charukesi Ramadurai

30 September 2016

On the edge of the Bay of Bengal in South India is a town whose name in the local language sounds as mellifluous as its meaning: Tharangambadi, or “land of the singing waves”.

But in the early 17th Century, this tongue twister of a name proved too difficult for the incoming Danes, who altered it to Tranquebar, by which it is still known to this day.

Although most people have heard of India’s French colony of Pondicherry, it’s little known that the Danes colonised part of India ­– especially a corner far removed from the major trading cities of Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai.

The Danish East India company, created in 1616 under King Christian IV for trade with India and Ceylon, had its eye on the Coromandel Coast in India’s southeast for its pepper and cardamom.

Danish ships arrived in Tharangambadi in 1620. And Raghunatha Nayak, ruler of the surrounding Thanjavur kingdom, willingly entered into a trade agreement with the Danes, giving them possession of the town for an annual rent of 3,111 rupees and allowing them to export pepper to Denmark.

Despite the region previously being ruled by the influential Chola and Pandiya Tamil dynasties, and later by the British – to whom the Danes sold Tranquebar in 1845 for 1.25 million rupees (approximately £14,400 today) – it was under Denmark that the seaside town came into its own.

A report published by the Danish Indian Cultural Centre of Tranquebar claims that “The long period under Danish rule transformed Tharangambadi from an Indian village into a hybrid Danish town encircled by a wall, grid pattern street layout and a strong fortress on the coast.”

In fact, one of the first things the Danes did upon arrival was to build the imposing Dansborg fort as their commercial hub. At its peak, this was the second largest Danish castle in the world after Kronborg (also known as Elsinore), the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. They also brought Protestantism with them, following it up with India’s first printing press to print the Bible in Tamil.

And although this town of 24,000 people is officially Tamil, remnants of its Danish past are still evident everywhere.

The main entry into town is through the Landporten (Town Gate), part of the original fortification wall around Danish Tranquebar, which is painted white and sports the Danish royal seal.

The road signs of those days – with names like King Street (translated from Kongensgade by the British) – still exist in contemporary India, with imposing colonial buildings rubbing up against diminutive Indian homes.

And the education system in Tranquebar is entirely a legacy of the Danes: most of the schools are managed by the Catholic St Theresa’s Convent and the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church.

In March 2016, the fort’s museum contained interesting documents from the heydays of Danish rule, including a carefully preserved copy of the sale deed between the Danes and the British, old maps of the town and a collection of miniature Danish ships that first docked at Tranquebar.

But some of the fort’s main areas were cordoned off for restoration work. Unlike many colonial towns, where remnants of the past have been left to fade away, Denmark’s strong attachment to its first trading outpost can still be seen. 

The Danish Tranquebar Association, which is carrying out the fort renovations, is a volunteer agency formed by four friends in 2002. It now has more than 200 members.

Poul Petersen, vice president of the association and one of the founding members, says that he was fascinated by Tranquebar from the time he studied it at school in Denmark. The retired headmaster visits twice a year and has brought students from his school to make sure the story of this shared Danish-Indian history stays alive.

“After that first round of the Dansborg fort restoration, we hoisted the Indian flag and the Danish flag on the top,” he said.

And this pride goes all the way to the top. According to SB Prabhakar Rao, the honorary Vice Consul of Denmark in Chennai, the Danish Government is honoured to have this shared history.

“The Danish government believes that their history is incomplete without a reference to this significant period. So they have preserved these historical records carefully in Copenhagen’s museums and archives. And Danes still like to visit Tranquebar to identify the graves of their ancestors in the local cemetery,” he said.

The Danish Tranquebar Association has restored the Danish Churchyard, one of the town’s oldest cemeteries where many Danes are buried, and more recently, the Danish Governor’s Bungalow. Their current project is the 18th-century Danish Commander’s home, which will eventually house a museum, library and a Danish-Indian cultural centre. But they initially won the trust of locals by helping out after the terrible tsunami of 2004, providing new boats for the fishermen as well as building a granite protection wall along the coast.

According to school teacher S. Marina, “Tharangambadi people welcome [the Danish people] because we can’t forget their help after the tsunami. Even before the government stepped in, they had helped us repair our homes and buy new boats.”

And for locals, the Danish revival means more visitors, which in turn means more economic opportunities. R. Sankar, Marina’s husband, has spruced up one of the rooms in his house and plans to add two more on the open terrace on top, as a homestay option.

“Many foreigners are coming to Tharangambadi now, but they don’t have budget hotels here,” he explained.

Depite tourist interest, while Pondicherry, just more than 100km away, is widely hailed as a slice of France in India, Tranquebar, with its rich European heritage, sits quietly out of the limelight. Yet Tranquebar still to this day has a mutually cordial and sustained relationship with Denmark.

As Petersen said, “The people of Tranquebar consider the Danish period as a good time, and think of us as friends.”

Overskrift 1

                                                                Carried out 4 - 10 February 2007

Gert Normann Andersen

                   Strandingsmuseum St. George


Preliminary Studies 3

Investigation 4

Measurements with the proton magnetometer in waters off Tranquebar 5

Dives 7

Interview with local fishermen 8

Investigation of masulas and wooden anchors 9

Conclusion 11

Appendix I Plan for marine archaeological investigation of the anchorage at



Appendix II Merchant ships lost on their way to and from Tranquebar and East



Appendix III Wreck location with the aqua scan MC5 19

Appendix IV Measurements of a masula and wooden anchors 21

Marine archaeological study of the anchorage and waters off Tranquebar

in India - carried out from 4 to 10 February 2007

The purpose of the investigation was to locate shipwrecks and other objects on the seabed or buried off the coast of Tranquebar. The investigation is to be used as a preliminary study, which may lead to a larger survey/excavation with Danish and Indian marine archaeologists.

The investigation was initiated by The Tranquebar Association and carried out by diver Gert Normann Andersen from JD-Contractor ApS, and technician Kim Schmidt from HV-Elektro. The Tranquebar Association contacted locals for the use of vessels, fishermen and divers.

Gert Normann Andersen and Kim Schmidt also represent “Stranding museum St. George” (Ringkøbing / Holstebro Museums) in Thorsminde which is responsible for marine archaeology along the West Coast of Jutland and its fjords.

This rapport will be available on the web pages for Strandingsmuseum St. George

( ) and The Tranquebar Association ( ).

A plan for the preliminary investigations can be seen in appendix I

The primary investigation went largely according to plan. ( Comments and deviations are written in italics ).

Preliminary Studies

Before departure from Denmark, a literature search of relevant Danish and foreign literature was carried out to get an idea of what can be expected to lie in the coastal waters off Tranquebar. (See appendix II)

Lawrence V. Mott from Syddansk University wrote, in 2005, a rapport about the possibilities of establishing a marine archaeological school

(Summer Field School) in Tranquebar. The rapport describes the conditions, and earlier marine investigations in the area. One discovery is a Dutch ship from the 19th century, which lies at a depth of 23 metres about 5 km north of Tranquebar. The rapport also describes two circular anomalies near

Fort Dansborg.

On the official sea charts from the area, there is a wreck marked approx. 2.5 nautical miles from land and approx. 6 nautical miles north of Fort Dansborg at a position of 11 07 191 N and 079 54

016 E.

Appendix II contains a list of ships belonging to the Danish East India Company that have been lost on journeys to East India. There is also a selection of English and Dutch ships that have been lost along The Coromandel Coast. The number of lost ships is in reality much greater than listed, as the lists only include certain periods, and ships from Spain, Portugal, France and many other countries are not mentioned. Also local and Asian vessels that have been lost in the area are not mentioned. A list of literature concerning ships and navigation around India can be found at the end of the  appendix.

As a point of interest it should be mentioned that many of the foreign ships that have been lost had large fortunes onboard. Generally the Danish and other foreign ships had large valuable cargoes from their homeports. Especially iron and lead were good trading materials in India, and these were used as ballast during the outward voyage. There were often chests with coins and gold- and silver bars that were used to establish and maintain the colonies. Money was also needed to buy sought after goods that could be sold for huge profits in Europe. The ships could also carry crates with weapons, knives, binoculars and other European articles.

Homeward bound the ships were often loaded with silk, dyes, sugar, tea and spices; especially pepper, which could be sold in Europe for up to 30 times the purchase price in India. Sometimes the ships carried polished gemstones, ivory and gold from Bengal and other Asian countries.

In extracts about lost ships from the British East India Company, there is also mention of valuable items. In the area off Tranquebar there is believed to be the remains of the English frigate Madras which sunk with a cargo of coins in 1688. Also the money chest from the Evangelical-Lutheran mission which was lost at sea at Tranquebar during loading in the summer of 1708 should still be in the area.

Of Danish ships, it is expected to find remains of the ships that were broken up at Tranquebar. Other Danish ships that were lost along the Coromandel Coast were lost at other locations both north and south of Tranquebar.

It might also be possible to find remains of masulas, transport boats, which were used to transport goods from the ships to the shore.


Considerations for our investigations will be based on a systematic search using a proton magnetometer. This will give us the most accurate positions of shipwrecks and other large objects at the bottom of the sea.

The equipment is comprised of a probe that is dragged in an underwater cable approx. 20 metres behind the workboat. The cable is connected with an instrument on board the boat where search parameters are set and all the signals can be read (see Appendix III).

The proton magnetometer measures the magnetic field in an area. Magnetic fields differ around the world; therefore the equipment has to be calibrated by the manufacturer to the specific location. When iron is located on the seabed, the magnetic field will be distorted close to it.

All old shipwrecks contain iron. These include numerous things from the many iron rivets; that the wooden planks over the whole ship were spiked with, to the anchor, iron fastenings, iron ballast, canons, weapons and other equipment on board. Shipwrecks, both old and new, can therefore easily be found using a proton magnetometer. Even individual items the size of an anchor or iron canon will give a good signal, though the intensity of the signal will not be is as strong as with a whole wreck. In this way it is easy to tell the difference between a large wreck and an individual ferrous object.

The bottom of an old wooden shipwreck of a reasonable size can normally be measured at a distance of about 100 meters on each side of the probe. Most of the old ships that bounty hunters have located around the world have been with a proton magnetometer. Most investigations were carried out from a small open fishing boat. Here is a picture of Gert Normann with the captain and an assistant off Fort Dansborg. The local fishermen are very good sailors and were a great help with our investigations.

Measurements with the proton magnetometer in waters off Tranquebar

The first couple of days we concentrated on scanning the seabed near the old town of Tranquebar at Fort Dansborg. All readings were logged as geographical coordinates with the aid of a GPS-receiver.

After an occasional sandbank and troughs in the area of the surf, the water became steadily deeper. Close to the coast the seabed was just sand, though further out there are increasing amounts of clay sediments. Gradually the amount of sand decreased leaving just silt.

First we registered all the variations and anomalies in an area of 1200 meters along the coast and approx. 1500 meters out to sea. The research area was then increased. We made a circa 600 metre broad belt approx. 5 km to the north and approx. 6 km to the south of our initial investigation point near the town.

It was in this area that there was the greatest probability of finding wrecks from beached ships. The distance from land to the search area was calculated from measurements of coastal erosion over the past 200 years.

to what we normally find along the West Coast of Jutland.
Results showed that there were surprisingly few signals registered in the expanded area compared

Approx. 1.8 nautical miles north of Tranquebar at position 11 03 287 N and 079 51 931 E, there was an area with signals that was large enough that it could be a small shipwreck.

All other signals were found off Tranquebar in a belt from 130 to 380 metres out from the current

coastline; in an area where the dangerous breakers were found in the period from the 17th to 19th century.

  Signals that were registered off Tranquebar:

The shore by the red outer fort wall outside Dansborg was measured at position 11 01 398 N and 079 51 380 E.

The stairs on the East Side of Fort Dansborg was measured at position 11 01 434 N and 079 51 371


All of the above signals had a size relating to those expected by an iron anchor or a canon. None of the results were large enough to be interpreted as a whole shipwreck. All positions are given according to the WGS 84 system.

Where the ships were anchored for loading and unloading, there were no signals. Therefore no ship was sunk at the anchorage off Tranquebar, and only small artefacts or rubbish must have been thrown from ships in this area. A lost anchor or canon would undoubtedly have given a signal on the

proton magnetometer. There can be many layers of debris on the seabed near the anchorage, which are not registered by the proton magnetometer. Typical layers of debris at the anchorage include waterlogged beams, potsherd, bottles, clay pipes and other non-ferrous waste.

A section of a chart off Tranquebar Some of the search tracks and all the readings from the magnetometer are drawn onto the map.   The river is misleading, as the subsidiary into the sea is not so broad. The mouth of the river is just visible in the southerly turning point of the lines drawn.

The search was irregular. This was due to the fishing nets and other boats in the water. Subsequently the gaps in the search area were investigated when there was room. This resulted in criss-crossing the search area in order to reach the last areas to be investigated.


It would be best to dive and inspect all the positions, which gave a reading and where locals think there is something on the seabed. Though due to the rough and murky sea, and the large amounts of fishing nets in the area, it was not possible to carry out a safe dive. Most of the year there are high waves and surf with very murky waters around Tranquebar. After talking to a local Indian diver, we learnt that in February and March there was a good chance for calm and clear water along the coast. Even though we were in the area in February, the conditions were not good enough for us to dive. The best three days the waves were between 0.5 and 1 metre high, and the last two days the waves reached between 1.5 and 2.5 metres high. Every day the water was murky, even away from the coast. Further out visibility reached a couple of meters on the surface, but already at a depth of 2-3 metres the water became totally thick. During a dive, Kim Schmidt reached the seabed at a depth of 7 metres in total darkness. Afterwards, he described the water like soup.

This comes from the sound of the constant high surf. The local offshore diving boat, where we carried out searches and tried to dive. The boat is equipped with modern diving equipment and is crewed by 11 divers and sailors. It is used to supply an offshore drilling rig 8-10 nautical miles south east of Tranquebar.

  Investigation of masulas and wooden anchors

A fascinating aspect of India is that Old Danish traditions from throughout history are still present in everyday life i.e. grinding mills which were used in the Stone Age are still used in India today. Also boats built like in the Bronze Age, brickyards from the 17th century, and agriculture and fishing tackle from the 19th century. India also has a modern side with modern machinery, tools, electronics and computers.

We had to days while we waited for our equipment. These were used to investigate a masula, a traditional type of boat, which we wanted to find and measure together with traditional wooden and stone anchors.

A masula is a particular type of boat where the planks and frames are bound with coir in stead of nails (exactly as was used in Denmark in the Bronze Age). It was also this type of boat, which were used to load and unload frigates at anchorages along the Indian East coast throughout history. They were also used to load and unload Danish ships.

  When Gert Normann was in Tranquebar In 1995 he saw a masula, maybe the last original masula on the coast. A year later he wanted to document and measure the boat, but the locals said that the masula has been totally destroyed by the waves and there was nothing left. Karin Knudsen informed us of reports of a masula in a village south of the river in Kirala district.

Together with Bent Christiansen, we visited the place and found the masula inland, close to the memorial for the victims of the tsunami. Unfortunately it was not an old masula, but a newer version with iron staples instead of the coir binding. Also the planks were not as broad as in the old masulas, but the size and form were nearly the same. The masula was therefore measured, videoed and photographed (see appendix IV).

  In the current fishing town of Tranquebar we found various wooden and stone anchors which were measured and photographed (see appendix IV).

For a literature list on Indian boats see appendix IV.


After analysing the readings from the magnetometer in the area off Tranquebar, we could not find signs of a shipwreck in the search area, not even something that would have the size of a piece of wreckage floor from the ships broken up in the area. In the anchorage there was found layers with debris and objects fallen from ships, mostly kitchen waste, potsherd, clay pipes and small objects, though there was not found metal objects of a size which were registered by the proton magnetometer. We got a series of readings in a belt from 130 to 380 metres from the current coastline, though none of these readings had a size that indicated a large shipwreck. The signals were of a size corresponding to a single piece of iron, the size of an anchor or canon, or pieces of a cargo containing iron. It could be something that was lost when a smaller boat capsized or sunk. The wreck of a masula can not be measured as these were built of wood and sewed with coir, so were without iron.

Referring to the coastline of Trellund’s map from 1733 we can see that the belt with readings corresponds to the surf zone in the 17th and 18th century. It was here that small transport boats and masulas were most at risk of capsize, sinking or being wrecked. It is interesting that we only got readings in this belt off the old town of Tranquebar and not in the kilometres long passages north and south of the town, which pass through several fishing villages. This indicates that the signals recorded are probably due to objects lost in conjunction with activities off Tranquebar in colonial times.

We expected to get readings from pieces of ships that according to history were broken up off Tranquebar; though the powerful waves that come up the coast may have swept the pieces of  wreckage up on dry land as they became dislodged and free of their cargoes.

The positions located by the photon magnetometer need to be investigated by a diver when conditions allow. The greatest chance for calm water and visibility is in February and March, though it cannot be taken for granted, so there needs to be a long time period set aside in these two months in order to guarantee good diving conditions.

  It can not be expected that a diver, even under good conditions, can find a wreck or objects from the 17th or 18th century lying on the seabed. All the wooden parts exposed to the warm water would have been quickly decomposed by woodworm and other plant consuming organisms eating away at them. Only parts of the wreck that are buried in the oxygen free layer under the seabed would be well preserved. Heavy items such as iron and other metals that are non- perishable will quickly sink into the seabed due to currents and wave movements, and become covered with sand and sediment.

  The strength of the proton magnetometer is that it can measure shipwrecks and other ferrous objects hidden in the seabed. If there is to be a successful marine archaeological discovery off Tranquebar, it has to be done during the best season. The sand and sediment needs to be systematically removed with a suction pump in a controlled excavation over the investigation area. 18. February 2007

Gert Normann Andersen           JD-Contractor ApS


Appendix I

Initial Investigations

The preliminary investigation was planned as laid out in this document. ( Comments and deviations are written in italics. )

Plan for the marine archaeological investigation of the anchorage off Tranquebar


To locate ship wrecks or other objects on the seabed off Fort Dansborg in Tranquebar. This is preliminary work that could lead to future marine archaeological investigations and excavations in the area. Our trip and investigation is planned from 2-12 February 2007.

 Local working conditions:

Working conditions in the Tranquebar area are very difficult as there are often large waves and swells. Especially the large swells result in strong currents which make working under water very difficult. The large swells also swirl the sediment up from the seabed causing reduced visibility. The best time for working near the coast is in the winter months from January to March when the climate is dry and there is less wind.

 Local working conditions: After interviewing local divers it was confirmed that the best weather and diving conditions are in the months from January to March. During January the waters often have poor visibility, whereas visibility is best in February and March.

Unfortunately the water was unclear during the whole time we were in the area. During the first two days, the waves and surf were about 1 metre high, and during the last 2 days there were a significant number of waves about 1.5 metres and a maximum wave height of 2.5 metres.

Despite these difficulties, we managed to work every day, apart from one where it was impossible to use the computer and equipment from the open fishing boat due to spray and flooding. The day was instead used to document wooden anchors in the village, and preparing our diving equipment for the following day.

A Brief Description of the Assignment:

1. An initial assessment in Denmark of the objects likely to be found on the seabed near Tranquebar.

2. Local fishermen were asked about wrecks or other obstacles on the seabed in the area. Are there for example places where their nets get stuck on the seabed?

3. A systematic investigation of anomalies at depths of 4-10 metres taken with a proton magnetometer from a local fishing boat.

4. A systematic investigation of anomalies at depths of 10-15 metres taken with a proton magnetometer from a larger vessel.

5. A diving survey of potential positions based on information from local fishermen and anomalies located by the proton magnetometer. Although dives were planned they had to be abandoned because of low visibility on the seabed, and due to the heights of the waves which were more than 100% greater than diving permitted.

6. Discoveries, if found, measured, and documented with underwater video.

7. All results collected into an electronic rapport with photographs and underwater video.

Use of local vessels:

Diving ship – one day Open fishing boat three days

Equipment brought from Denmark:

GPS complete with computer, echo sounder and proton magnetometer

Digital camera in waterproof case

2 diving suits

2 sets of flippers

2 diving goggles

2 snorkels

2 x 15l bottles with harnesses

1 adapter for an air tank to the regulator/aqualung

2 aqualungs with mouth pieces

1 air compressor set (in case we were unable to refill the bottles locally)

ruler, tape measure, underwater paper and pencil


Gert Normann –diver and consultant in the area of historical ships

Kim Schmidt – diver and technician Local helpers where necessary


Saturday 3/2: Travel: Billund-Frankfurt-Chennai.

Sunday 4/2: Met with Captain Ramon in Chennai and drove to Tranquebar.

Monday 5/2: Visited the site at Tranquebar and interviewed local fishermen.

Tuesday 6/2: Visited harbours and ships. Investigated and measured old transport boats -masulas.

Wednesday 7/2: Sailed with a small fishing boat and took measurements with the proton magnetometer.

Thursday 8/2: Continued work from previous day.

Friday 9/2: Diving and investigations. ( Due to weather conditions and high water we tried to work later in the day. The boat came through the surf, but there was so much water over the gunnel that we were unable to unpack our equipment from their waterproof boxes. Instead we sailed back to shore and researched and measured wooden anchors .)

Saturday 10/2: Sailed with a large boat with divers and proton magnetometer. The waves were very high, though we could work with the proton magnetometer because we worked from a larger vessel than we had on the previous days.

Sunday 11/2: Packed equipment and drove to Chennai.

Monday 12/2: Return trip Chennai-Frankfurt-Billund

Appendix II

Ships from the Danish East India Company that have been lost on their journey to and from Tranquebar and East India

__ Places where ships that were lost along the Coromandel coast are written in bold

__ Places where there is a chance of finding parts of the shipwreck near Tranquebar are written in bold italic

__ Places where ships were lost in Northern Europe are written in italic

__ RA stands for Rigsarkivet (The Danish Public Records Office) and the number relates to the archive

registration given in “Vejledende Arkivregistraturer XIV for Asiatiske, Vestindiske og Guineiske handelskompagnier”.

1618-22?  Øresund  destroyed at Karikal, or beached at Tricomale

1618-22? Christiana beached at Ceylon

1625   Jupiter          beached in Bengal

1626 Nattergalen    lost in the Bay of Bengal

1629 Flensborg      exploded after fight at Cape of Good Hope

1630? Vandhunden scrapped near Tranquebar

1635? Fortuna        scrapped in India

? Posthesten         scrapped in India

1640 St. Jacob      lost at Pipely in the Bay of Bengal

1640 Solen (Den gyldne sol) beached on the Dunes, South England,

       on return trip

1641 Charitas lost at Petapoli (Nizampatnam) in May

1643 Den Forgyldte Sol lost on return voyage off South East England

1643 Den Bengalske Prise grounded and totally wrecked at Emeldy, Colconda

1644 Fregatta taken over and lost the same year at Emeldy (north of Madras)

1652 Christianshavn noted as damaged and un-seaworthy in Tranquebar

1679 Charlotta Amalia lost near Gothenburg (RA 191 I)

1679 Haabet lost at Læsø

1676 Oldenburg lost at Anholt

1680 Dansborg beached and destroyed in the Faroe Isles

1685 Havmanden lost (RA192 II)

1691 Den Flyvende Ulv lost at Plymouth, England on return voyage

1697 Charlotte disappeared in India

1698 Prinsesse Louise lost along the south coast of India on way to Tranquebar

1701 Gyldenløve lost at Læsø (RA194 IV)

1702 Christian Quintus lost in Bengal

1704 Prins Christien lost at Atchin, Indonesia

1705 Prins Carl beached at Bombay

1708 Norske Løve beached and destroyed in the Faroe Isles

1714 Dansborg lost at Råbjerg Strand, Northern Jutland

1714 Cronprintzen crashed and wrecked (RA194 IV)

1726 Anna Sophie beached at Læsø

1730 Den Gyldne Løve lost on outward voyage from the north coast of Ireland

1736 Fredericus Quartus lost on outward voyage off Skagen, North Jutland

1737 Vendela lost on outward voyage at Fetlar, Shetland Isles

1740 a ship noted as lost

1744 Princesse Lovisa lost on voyage to India off the Maldives (RA665)

1746 Tranquebar disappeared off the Coromandel Coast on its homeward


1749 three ships noted as lost

1749 København lost at Store Dimon, the Faroe Isles, on homeward voyage

1750 Elephanten lost on way from Tranquebar at the Cape (RA 669B + RA 771)

1751 Dokken disappeared on voyage from Tranquebar to København

1751? Christiansborg Slot lost on outbound voyage off Gothenburg

1752 Cron Princessen lost on way to Tranquebar at the Cape (RA670 + RA 773A)

1753 Kongen af Danmark lost on maiden voyage

1763 Grev Moltke burnt at Negapatnam (RA871b )

1763 Haabet lost 12. February

1769 Prince Friderich beached along the Swedish coast in the Kattegat (RA922)

1780 Prs Sophie Friederikke burnt in Kanton (RA208c)

1783 Nicobar lost at the Cape (RA208c)

  In all 47 named ships were lost in the period up to 1772, and four unidentified.

Less than 40 % (17 out of 47) of the named ships were lost in North European waters between 1622 and 1783.

These ships were lost along the Swedish coast in the Kattegat, off Anholt, Læsø, Gothenburg, Skagen, the Faroe Isles, Shetland Isles, Ireland and England.

9 July 1706, the Evangelical-Lutheran mission lost a chest of money while unloading to a smaller ship in the sea

at Tranquebar. There are also rumours that a number of canons have been lost while unloading to landing boats.

In the period from 1772 to 1791, 159 ships set sail. Of these 137 returned while 22 remained abroad or were lost at sea.

 Ships from the Dutch East India Company that are known to be lost off the coast of South East India

Of 8000 voyages to India, about 650 Dutch ships were lost. Many were lost in Indian waters, though below are only mentioned those that were lost specifically around the Coromandel Coast.

1610 Eendracht destroyed by fire along the Coromandel Coast

1630 Kleine Davis destroyed by fire along the Coromandel Coast on 11. February

1643 Neptunus beached and lost along the Coromandel Coast on 3. October

1653 Overschie lost along the Coromandel Coast on 21. December

1680, lost along the Coromandel Coast in January

1758 Haarlem destroyed by the French off Pondicherry (became a wreck)

1759 Oostkapelle lost along the Coromandel Coast

1786 Patriot lost off Madurai in South India

Ships from the British East India Company, that were lost with large fortunes off the coast of South East India

India was a part of the British Empire, and as such England had by far the largest trade with India, and ships.

Below are only a small proportion of the ships that were lost off South East India.

We have material about all  the losses (see literature list), but it is very time consuming to find information about all these ships.

1638 Eagle lost at Madras, Patnam Roads, with a cargo of coins

1640 Unity lost at Madras on outward voyage with gold

1641 John lost on outward voyage with a cargo of coins, 13.55N 80.14E

1684 Adventure lost on outward voyage with a cargo of coins off Madras - 7. December

1687 Borneo Merchant lost on homeward voyage off Fort St. George, Madras, with gems - 4. October

1687 Royal Adventure lost south of Mucquav with gifts from the King of Siam, fine china and gold

1688 Frigate Madras lost on outward voyage off Tranquebar with a cargo of coins

1719 King George lost on homeward voyage, from Bengal, off Fort St. George with gems -28. October

1721 Dartmouth lost off Madras med 20 cases of silver on homeward voyage, from

Bengal - 14. November

1749 Lincoln beached and lost with 28 chests of coins 85 km north of Tranquebar 14. April

1777 Marquis of Rockingham lost near Madras with 23 valuable chests, 22 rescued, - 20. May

1782 Earl of Hertford beached and lost off Madras med fine china from China on its

homeward voyage 15. October

1783 Duke of Atholl blown up off Madras on outward voyage with a cargo of coins - 19. April

1811 HMS Dover 990 tons, beached and lost off Fort St. George 2. May

1811 Chichester 777 tons Royal Navy Ship beached and lost off Madras - 2. May

1877 Brig Emeraco 101 tons, beached at Covelong (Madras) on voyage to Negapatam - 24. May

1879 Brig”Sultan Hamed” 229 tons, sunk off Negapatam in ballast 9. November

1880 a bark lost 100 yards south of River Negapatam - 2. November

1884 en brig lost at Negapatam - 16. October

1886-1887 three ships lost at Negapatam - two brigs and a dhow


There were also an unknown number of other ships and vessels from other periods and ships from France, Spain, Portugal and other countries.


We are sure that the money chest, belonging to the mission, can be found in the sea at Tranquebar.

It was lost in 1708 while being transferred to a smaller boat.

There is also expected to find pieces of ships that were broken up off Tranquebar. Other ships were lost at various locations both north and

south of the town.

There is a possibility of finding parts of the English frigate Madras which was lost in 1688 on its outward voyage at Tranquebar, with a cargo of coins.

There is also a possibility of finding parts of the masulas which were used to transport goods from the ships to shore. Some of them over the years must have sunk while ferrying goods.

Literature on East India, Tranquebar and Danish ships in general

Brøndsted, Johannes et al: Vore gamle tropekolonier (Volume I, Dansk Ostindien København 1953)

Cortemünde, J.P.: Dagbog fra en Ostindiefart 1 672 Søhistoriske, Volume V

(Handels- og Søfartsmuseetpå Kronborg1953)

Fihl, Esther: Tropekolonien Tranquebar (GAD, København 1988)

Gregersen Hans: Tranquebar (Wormaniun, Højbjerg 1987)

Larsen, Kay: Krøniker fra Tranquebar (København 1918)

Mott, Lawrence V.: Tranquebar Reconnaissance Report for February 13 – 19. 2005 (Syddansk Universitet 2005)

Rasch, Aa and Sveistrup, P.P.: Asiatisk Kompani i den florissante periode 1772-1792 (København 1948)

Tuxen, C.L.: Nogle oplysninger om det tidlige ”Dansk Asiatisk Kompani” (Tidsskrift for Søvæsen 1898, pp. 369-


Literature on shipwrecks including ships that were lost along the Indian East


Admiralty Wreck Registers - and Abstract of the Returns to the Board of Trade – Wreck, Casualties, and Collisions abroad from 1850 to 1915. Ordered by the House of Commerce and the Board of Trade. Issued annually

Grocott, Terence: Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary & Napoleonic Eras 1793-1815 (Chatham Publishing, England 1997)

Hepper, David J.: British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail 1650-1859 (East Sussex, England 1994)

Lloyd´s List 1741-1826. Reprinted in 43 volumes

Pickford, Nigel: The Atlas of Shipwreck & Treasure (London 1994)

Web sites and CD

Website over all Dutch VOC Shipwrecks:

Northern Shipwrecks Database Version 2002.

CD: 100.000 Shipwrecks World Wide

Appendix III




Marine magnetometers have been used in professional applications with great

success for many years.However the high cost of these units have restricted

their use for general wreck location.Recent advances in electronic

technology have however enabled much cheaper magnetometers to be produced

without sacrificing any of the features of these professional models.In

fact the use of microcomputers has enabled costly features on previous

designs to be implimented quite cheaply.

For wreck location sounder, is its enable the search buried in sand

difficult with an

the magnetometers great advantage over an echo ability to detect a wreck at

a distance and then vessel to home onto can also detect wrecks etc,

or lying on rocky ground;both of which are very echo sounder.

The AQUAS CAN MCS is a proton magnetometer which is used to measure the

earth's magnetic field strength and can detect variations in this field

caused by the presence of ferrous objects.The earth's field is normally

uniform, but will be disturbed by local concentrations of magnetic material

such as a steel wreck.These variations can extend up to several hundred

metres from a wreck site with the maximum occurring over the wreck

itself.It is however, difficult to give accurate performance figures for

the detection of various objects as much depends on the size,attitude and

permability of the object disturbing the field.

A major feature of the MCS is simple operation.This has been achieved ,-

by using a microcomputer to control the operation of the magnetometer.


The principle of operation of a proton magnetometer is unlike that of

conventional hand held metal detectors.These detectors produce their own

dynamic magnetic field and detect disturbances in the field caused by

metal objects.This time varying magnetic field only extends about 2 metres

from the search coil,so consequently the maximum detection range for large

metal objects is still only about 2 metres.Their main advantage over a

proton magnetometer is that by generating a time varying magnetic field

non ferrous metals can be detected.The physical principles on which these

detectors work is outside the scope of this article.

A proton magnetometer for wreck location measures the strength of the

earth's magnetic field and for this it is extremly sensitive.The earth's

field is a static field and because many non ferrous metals do not effect

a static magnetic field then they cannot be detected by a proton

magnetometer.A good rule of thumb to determine if a material will be

detected by a magnetometer is if it is attracted to a bar magnet the it

can be dete~ted.Thc proton precession magnetometer is so named because it

utilises the procession of spinning protons in a sample of hydrocarbon

fluid to measure the strength of any magnetic field through the fluid.In

practice the sensor consists of a bottle of hydrocarbon fluid

(i.e.kerosene) around which is wound a coil of wire.

To measure the earth's field, the fluid must first be polarised for a few

seconds.The polarise state consists of connecting the coil to a battery

which produces a strong magnetic field through the fluid. The protons

behave as small spinning magnets and temporarily align themselves with

this strong field,as shown in (FIG l).When the battery

is disconnected the magnetic field collapses and the spin of the protons

causes them to precess about the direction of the earth's magnetic field.

The precessing protons generate a small signal of approximately one

microvolt in the coil, and the frequency of this signal is directly

proportional to the strength of the earth's magnetic field. The precise

relationship between the frequency of the signal and the magnetic field

strength is known as the gyromagnetic ratio.

  Appendix IV

  Measurements of a masula and anchors

Diagrams and measurements will be included in the next update.

Literature on Indian boats

Hornell, James: The Origins and Ethnological Significance of Indian Boat Designs (Memoirs of the   Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta 1920.)

Wiebeck, Erno: Indische Boote und Schiffe af (Rostock 1987)

Brev fra England

Fra den gamle hjemmeside.

September 27. 2004.
Fra en læser i England er modtaget følgende som mail. Vi bringer den her ubeskåret og med hans tilladelse.

I have read with interest the information on your website on Tranquebar. You say in "Denmark as a Colonial Power" that "On 25th of October 1730 the first Danish ships – CRON PRINTZ CHRISTIAN, CRON PRINTZEN and DEN GYLDNE LØVE - left Copenhagen with destination China. This was a huge project and the commander was Commandeur Capitain M.C.L.F. Tønder, one of the heroes from the famous Thundershields battles at Marstrand and Dynekilen. They carried mostly silver and was under order to purchase tea, drugs, porcelain, papir, lacquer and sealing wax. The trader on board was Pieter van Hurk from Amsterdam. They arrive at Whampoo Island in the Canton River in China in the summer of 1731 and opened the Danish trading route to China and from 1732 to 1750 the Danish East Indies Company sent 27 ships to China, of which 22 returned with a 200% profit."

I guess from this that you are not aware that DEN GYLDNE LØVE never reached China. 3 days after leaving Copenhagen she ran into severe weather conditions off the south-west coast of Ireland and was driven on to the strand at Ballyheigue, County Kerry. Her silver cargo was rescued with the aid of the local landowner Thomas Crosbie, who died shortly afterwards. His widow, Lady Margaret Crosbie, pursued a claim for salvage, and in the mean time the silver was deposited in her house under Danish guards. The house was later attacked by a gang of local men (there were strong suspicions that Lady Margaret and her family were involved), a guard was killed, and the silver was stolen. The affair became a great scandal in Ireland, and also eventually led to the removal of the Danish ambassador in London after he protested that the Danish East India Company was not being given justice in Ireland.

My interest in this arises from the fact that I am a descendant of Thomas and Lady Margaret, and I have been looking into some of the English records of this affair. I would be very interested to get in touch with anyone in Denmark who might be able to throw more light on the Danish side of this story.

Edw. Y.

The Danish Royal Army Forces

The Danes (now the Kingdom of Denmark and Norway) in fact had a very small contingent of European troops here at Tranquebar, but given that I know how "frisky" some players might get if they see an opportunity, I have decided to significantly bolster the forces here, using the prestige and royal family connections of the Danish Governor-General that I "installed" for this conflict. The names here are first in German, then in Danish in parentheses--while the official language used by the Danish Army switched from German to Danish in 1772, most official material was still in German until the 1790's. The parenthetical names of the "sepoy" units are italicised to indicate that they represent their larger, and fictional, size in this campaign.

--In 1777 this European infantry "regiment" (as it was called "on the books") was actually the size of a company, with four officers, 13 NCO's, 72 rank and file, and a small band. For the duration of this conflict, I have heavily reinforced that contingent with drafts from the homeland at the same time the new Governor-General was installed to replace the usual Governor. As stated in the introduction to this Danish section, the unit name here is given in "German (Danish)"
1 Regiment Europäische Infanterie (1ste Regiment Europaeiske Infanteri)
--This was a small battery in terms of men (actual size in 1778 was 40 Indian and 40 Indian-Portuguese gunners under the command of 10 European sergeants and 3 European officers), but encompasses all the guns in the fortifications of "Fortress Dansborg" protecting the Royal Danish port and colony of Tranquebar. It was not named as a "European" regiment, as most of it's gunners were either native Indians ("Talliarier") or Portuguese-Indians. I have also reinforced this unit within the game to keep the large guns of the belligerent navies respectful of the neutrality of this port.

2 Regiment Tranquebarische Artillerie (2det Regiment Trankebarske Artilleri)
--The actual composition in 1777 of each of these "sepoy" units were companies of 90 men each, under the command of a Danish officer, with native 2nd lieutenants and NCO's. The Indian troops were of course European dressed and armed.

1 Kompagnie Cipajen (1ste Bataljon Cipajen)
--In keeping with my ratio of Sepoys to European troops that I use in this campaign, I have increased these two "sepoy" units to the size of full battalions, maintaining the approximate ratio of sepoys to European troops that seems to hold pretty well in this theatre during this conflict.

2 Kompagnie Cipajen (2det Bataljon Cipajen)

 Denmark as a colonial power

Believe it or not, Denmark was once a colonial power with colonies and trade stations in Africa, Ceylon, India, Indonesia, China and the Virgin Islands. Not a big colonial power, just a small one, but this chapter of Danish history and military history covers many interesting stories.
In 1783 many Danish merchant ships arrived in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark-Norway, among these 5 ships from China, 9 from India and 127 from the West Indies (Virgin Islands). Beside these ships 1.600 ships transported goods to Europe and 5.100 smaller vessels transported goods between Denmark and the Nordic countries. A good period for Denmark and Copenhagen.
The backside of the medal was, that in just 12 years Denmark transported more than 17.000 chained and branded humans from Africa to the West Indies. Of these more than 3.000 died during the journey. Denmark had 3 major colonies:

· The Koromandel Coast in India with trade stations in the Bengal, Java, Borneo and Celebes.
· The Guinea Coast (200 kilometres of it!) in West Africa.
· The Virgin Islands (3 islands) in the Caribbean Sea in America.

Beside trading posts and colonies, Denmark had a trading post in Canton in China, just like the bigger colonial powers.

It all started in 1618, when the Danish King Christian the 4th equipped a fleet that should sail to India
and establish a Danish trading post on the way to China. The commander was Ove Giedde, a 24
years old nobleman, and the fleet consisted of 2 naval ships ELEFANTEN ("The Elephant") and
DAVID and two merchant ships KIØBENHAVN ("Copenhagen") and CHRISTIAN. In March
1618 the first ship, the yacht ØRESUND ("The Sound") commanded by the Dutchman Roland Crappe, left Copenhagen, and shortly after that the main fleet set sail.

At the same time another explorer, commander Jens Munk, got the kings permission to try to find a passage north of the Americas to China, and he left 19th of May same year with two naval vessels, the frigate ENHIØRNINGEN ("The Unicorn") and the yacht LAMPRENEN ("The Lamprey"). His mission failed, and he returned with only two survivors two years later.

The Indian fleet had lots of problems. A mutiny in January 1619 in the Channel. On 19th of February the fleet took 2 pirate ships at Cap Verde and included them in the fleet. At the same time, the chief merchant, a Dutchman named Boshouwer was exposed as a fraud. By the time the fleet got to

South Africa over 200 men had been lost and during the next 9 months, when the fleet sailed along the African east coast to India, another 100 men died.
Ove Gjedde, the commander, got a part of the coastline Trinquemale on Ceylon from the King of Candy on 21
st of August 1620. This was not a nice piece of land, so eventually he went to the
Coromandel Coast in the Tanjore Province, where his second in command Roland Crappe had been awarded some land of his old friend the Naik at a place called Tarangambadi. European name was Trankebar. On the 16
th of October that year the first customs pay – 16 thaler – was paid to the Danish authority. Denmark kept the "colony" for 200 years.
Lets turn to Africa: In the Carl Gustav war between Denmark and Sweden 1657 to 1660 there actually was a battle in Africa. The Danish commander was Henrik Carlof with 22 sailors from Glückstadt in Germany and 22 borrowed Negro slaves. They took the Swedish fortress Carolusborg at Cabo Corso on the Guinea Golden Coast one morning in January 1658. Denmark was established in Africa. Carolusborg was lost in 1659, but Denmark had the same year bought the Fortress Frederiksborg, that unfortunately was pawned in 1684. At that time the Danish merchants had built Christiansborg near Accra and this fortress became the centre of the Guinea trade.

The first decree in the Danish colony on the Virgin Islands was issued on 27th of May 1672, when Jørgen Iversen became the first governor. The colony had been established by settlers from Copenhagen that sailed of in October 1671 on the ship FÆRØE ("The Faeroes"). These settlers were poor people, thieves, murderers and rubbers from Bremerholm prison and women from Spindehuset – 180 settlers in all. 77 settlers died on the way to the islands, 75 died during the first year on the tropical island of Saint Thomas. The next ships were almost the same story, out of 324 settlers only 64 survived.

After a period of 8 years the colony was fully established: 45 small plantations with tobacco, sugar, indigo and ginger, 156 Christian souls and 175 Negro slaves.
With colonies in Africa and the West Indies, the triangle trading started: Goods from Copenhagen to Africa – goods and slaves from Africa to the West Indies – sugar, rum, tobacco etc. from the West Indies to Copenhagen. The merchants made fortunes and Denmark could take its rightful place among the wealthy colonial powers.

On 25th of October 1730 the first Danish ships – CRON PRINTZ CHRISTIAN, CRON PRINTZEN and DEN GYLDNE LØVE - left Copenhagen with destination China. This was a huge project and the commander was Commandeur Capitain M.C.L.F. Tønder, one of the heroes from the famous Thundershields battles at Marstrand and Dynekilen. They carried mostly silver and was under order to purchase tea, drugs, porcelain, papir, lacquer and sealing wax. The trader on board was Pieter van Hurk from Amsterdam. They arrive at Whampoo Island in the Canton River in China in the summer of 1731 and opened the Danish trading route to China and from 1732 to 1750 the Danish East Indies Company sent 27 ships to China, of which 22 returned with a 200% profit. In the end of the century Denmark had a factory in Canton next to France, USA, Sweden, UK and the Netherlands.

In 1756 Denmark established a small colony at the Greater Nicobar Island in the Bengal Sea. This colony was never a success, and both the first and second colony team died from malaria, and in 1787 the colony was abandoned. Later attempts were made and Denmark considered this a colony for a hundred years (whether the locals knew it or not!).
Then on 16
th of March 1792 the Danish King signed a decree that basically said that from 1803 slavery was forbidden. This slow closure meant that 10.000 extra slaves could be transported from Africa to the West Indies. Totally Denmark transported 50.000 Negro slaves to the new world, just ½ percent of the app. 11 million Africans that were taken there.
In 1801 and again in 1807 the British occupied the Danish colonies, because Denmark had made a treaty with Napoleon Bonaparte. During the period 1807 to 1814 the British took app. 1400 Danish and Norwegian ships, and in 1813 the Denmark went bankrupt. In 1843 the East India Company closed.

On 31st of December 1849 the Danish colonies in India was sold to the British for 10.000 pounds sterling. In 1868 the British got the Nicobar Islands for free. In the summer of 1915 the American ambassador Egan on behalf of the United States of America offered to buy the Virgin Islands. The Danish foreign minister Erik Scavenius negotiated a price of 25 million dollars (Denmark wanted 30 million and USA was prepared to pay 50 million???). Since this was selling a part of Denmark there was a referendum on the 14th of December 1916. Only app. 40% of the voters actually voted at this occasion. The result was 286.694 votes for the sale and 157.596 against. The handover took place at the army barracks in Saint Thomas on 31st of March 1917.

Leaves from the History of Tranquebar

Leaves from the History of Tranquebar

Study and respect of ancient records, for a proper understanding of historical, social and cultural life of the people is an attitude of the mind, nurtured by all in the western countries for the past several centuries. Thanks to this attitude, several leaves of our own history are carefully and most astonishingly preserved in European Countries. Many such records, dealing with the history of Tanjore and Tranquebar of 17th to 19th centuries are preserved in the Royal Archives, Copenhagen, Denmark. Immediately after the agreement between the Danish East India Company and Vijaya Raghunatha Nayak of Tanjore, in 1620, permitting the Danes to settle in Tarangambadi (Tranquebar) and carry on Trade in the Tanjore country, Raghunatha Nayak sent a letter of friendship to Christian IV, the King of Denmark -- written on a gold leaf. The letter is in the form of a palm leaf. During my recent visit to Copenhagaen, I had occasion to study two more letters, written on gold leaves, and sent from Tranquebar to the King of Denmark in 1687. These are preserved at the royal national archives in Copenhagen.

According to the catalogue of the archives one is a "Second letter of gold sent by the King of Tanjore to Christian V (the King of Denmark) in Tamil on sheet of gold-1688." On an examination I found that it was not a letter from the King of Tanjore, but from one Rama Nayakan of Tranquebar. In this letter Rama Nayakan represented that his ancestors hailed from Tanjore and settled in Tranquebar, doing business. Ever since the Danish company was established, they were assisting the company in their trade and receipt of merchandise and that he was also faithfully serving the company. One blackman intervened and his own services were suspended and caused difficulties. Now he had been able to re-establish his link, he was sending this letter on gold, thanking the King of Denmark for his most gracious gesture. The letter is dated October 7, 1687. Interestingly a Danish version of this letter was also drafted and written on paper on the same date and Rama Nayakan has put his signature in Tamil. The letter on paper is also preserved in the archives.

The next letter on gold carries the same information, but was signed by four other people, who claim themselves as "the subjects of the (Danish) Company" (Kumpinikku Kudiyaanaperu Ezhudina Kadudaasi). The signatories are Ananda Pillai, Tillainayakam Pillai, Mirkasim and Pala Pattaraiyals of Pattaraigrama. This letter on gold was also accompanied by a letter on paper with the Danish version, but signed in Tamil by the above mentioned four.

It is evident that Rama Nayakan and the other four were acting as agents of the Danish Company and making huge profits and that this agency was taken over by some other local person, against whom they made this complaint. It may be mentioned that the Tanjore Kingdom has passed on from the Nayaks to the Mahrattas around 1675, the period to which Rama Nayakan is referring to. The change of dynasties might have played some role in the removal of Rama Nayakan from the agency. When the agency was restored, they showed their oriental servitude by writing on a gold leaf.

While the letter written by the King of Tanjore Vijaya Raghunatha, is on pure gold leaf with careful writings, the letters by Rama Nayakan and others are, on an alloyed gold leaf, like 14 carat gold. The writing is also illegible. The Danish researchers, probably mistook, the appendage "Nayakan' as standing for King (on analogy with Raghunatha Nayak) and catalogued it as a letter from the King of Tanjore. Rama Nayakan was only a merchant of Tranquebar. Several such records are preserved in the Copenhagen archives.

An episode relating to one Seshachala Chetty is found in two records, dated October 1787. (Five other records in Marathi language - Modi script,in the Copenhagen collection also relate to this Seshachala Chetty). Mr. Alex Macleod was the resident of Tanjore in the court of the Mahratta ruler. A certain Major General Abbestee was the Danish Governor of Tranquebar. His office was then known as "the Governor General for the Danish Majesty in the East Indies." The Mahratta ruler of Tanjore, wanted to try for certain crimes Seshachala Chetty who was then staying at Tranquebar. Seshachala Chetty and probably his relatives, were trading in Tanjore and owed property or money to many Tanjoreans. The Tanjore King's efforts to get the Chetty to Tanjore, to stand the trial was not successful and there was resistance, from the Danish side. Finally the regent of Tanjore Mr. Macleod, wrote to the Governor of Tranquebar to send Seshachala Chetty "to settle the claim of 90 years' standing of many Tanjoreans." The Danish Governor insisted on protection to Seshachala Chetty. The Resident of Tanjore, agreed to give adequate protection under him. He sent a Thirvakara and two sepoys to bring Seshachala Chetty to Tanjore, and pledged "no oppression shall be exercised against him." The Chetty waited at Tanjore for long, for certain papers from Pondicherry which contained the proof and vouchers against him. The papers did not come. The Agent allowed Seshachala Chetty to return to Tranquebar. He also wrote to the Danish Governor, that "the revered Schwartz who is now at Tranquebar will convince you that how ridiculously and improperly the whole affair has been conducted by the Government of Tanjore." Schwartz interference in Tanjore's affairs is clearly hinted by this letter of 1787. Schwartz was instrumental in removing the then King of Tanjore and installing his own protégé Serfosi II on the throne.

Some light is also thrown on the Polygar system, prevalent in Tanjore during the 18th Century. A certain Perumal Naicken was a Palaiyakkara of a part of Tanjore country, bordering Tranquebar. His Palaiyam extended into the Tranquebar region under the control of the Danes then. Perumal Nayaka exercised his power, to collect his revenue. The clients, under the pretext of Danish protection, seem to have resisted the collection and the Nayak used force. The then Governor of Tranquebar wanted to keep the Nayak out of Danish settlements and wrote to the British at Madras complaining against the Raja of Tanjore and to punish the Nayak. The letter by Peter Anker, the Danish Governor of the Danesborg, Tranquebar, dated August 5, 1799, was addressed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Mornington and Governor General of the British East Indian Possession at Fort St. George, Madras. Anker wrote that he was annoyed by one of the Raja of Tanjore's Polygar. His letter preserved in the Royal archives, Copenhagen makes interesting reading. "These dependent polygars are bound by an ancient regulation, to assist the Raja with an armed force and in times of war and in times of peace to protect his subjects but the polygars, particularly in the Tanjore country have now become the worst depradators and to that impudent degree, that they are in fact the despotick rulers of this country and thus the territorical revenue fall a prey to a previleged body of marauders whereby the interior management made the country ineffective by constant commotions, too often attended with horrors of bloodshed, which to a European, who is interested with the management of the country, thus mangled and oppressed is extremely distressing.

The Polygar, I allude to, is a person by the name Perumal Naik, whose polygar district under the Raja of Tanjore extends within the limits of Danish jurisdiction. This Perumal Naick collected an armed force in the Raja's territory, for the express purpose of committing hostilities in this settlement. He passed the boundaries in the night and with his armed bandits numbering about 200 , broke into the King's garden, assaulted the guard on duty and killed two of the King's sepoys. But the gallant defence of the native officer with 30 sepoys compelled the assailants to retreat back to the Raja's territory, with a number killed and wounded. A few days after, another attack was made by the same Perumal Naik on a patrol under command of an European officer and followed by second in command Colonal Mahldroff, whose intention was to inspect the military stations. In passing a small wood, the patrol received a violent fire of musquettory, the sepoys were fortunately dispersed and thereby escaped the bullets, but it appeared that colonal Mahldroff was particularly aimed at, as he had a sepoy killed close to his horse. The villians when pursued took shelter in the Raja's territory."

The Danish Governor, accused the Raja of Tanjore of "affording security to Perumal Naik, which enabled him to continue to rob and plunder within the limits of Danish jurisdiction and address me some indolent letters." The Governor mentioned that he wrote a letter to the Raja of Tanjore on June 1 which was delivered on June 8. The Vakil who took the letter, was detained by frivolous promises and necessary preparations for the cultivation in this settlement were in the meanwhile impeded by continued depradations of Perumal Naick. He sent another letter to the Raja of Tanjore on June 23 but no reply was received. No steps was taken against the Perumal Naick, hence this letter to Madras.

He said "The Raja of Tanjore being placed on the Musnud by the English Company as a subordinate Prince and under the Direction of a servant of the company, I am flattered by the hope, your Lordship will His Danish Majesty the justice, to order the Government of Tanjore to observe a conduct towards the majesty the King of Denmark in every respect conformable to that friendly alliance, which subsists between his Danish Majesty and His Majesty the King of Great Britain and that your Lordship do order the Government of Tanjore to enforce the demand I addressed his excellancy the Raja of Tanjore."

This was clearly an attempt by the Danish Governor, to prevent the Palaikkarar collecting his revenues. The British Governor at Madras declined to interfere and said that "His Excellency, the Raja of Tanjore is bound by treaty to hold no intercourse with foreign states, without sanction of the company's Government." The Governor found no fault with the Raja of Tanjore and also pointed out "I find on enquiry that the Polygar Perumal Naick holds a right of Cawle as well in the district, subject to the Danish authority as in those under the jurisdiction of the Raja of Tanjore of the British Government and that availling himself of the divided authority he has committed depradations upon each of the districts, under circumstances suited to the different occasion" and in sarcastic vein, Morington wrote "the villence which you complain was committed within the limits of the Danish frontiers and as it appears to have happened at no great distance from a military post, I should have been immensely glad if your troops had been able to inflict immediate punishment." These letters preserved in the royal archives, Copenhagen, reveal the plight of Tanjore land holders in the 18th Century. The colonial powers were squeezing revenue on the one side, the King of Tanjore on the other, and in between were the Palaiyakkarars extracting their own share under some age old rights. This is a direct pointer to the state of poverty imposed on Agricultural land owners, that has come down to the present day.

31 March 1782
His Majesty's Fortress of Dansborg
Royal Danish Colony and Port of Tranquebar

Vice-Amiral Henri Laurent de Toucheville
Commandant, Flotte des Indes Orientales
Marine de Guerre de Français Royale

Dear de Toucheville,

It is with sincere regret that I have to inform you of a diplomatic incident that occurred during the lay-over of one of your captains.

Capitaine de Camembert un Fromage had the audacity to attempt to recruit crew from the Danish troops in this port, and when challenged claimed that offering a large bounty for volunteers wasn't technically violating the neutrality of the port. He also scoffed at the suggestion of formal complaints to the Secretary of the Colonial Department of the French Ministry of Marine, and King Louis XVI from His Majesty, Christian VII, King of Denmark and Norway, through ambassadorial channels, as well as to you.

I have already read in the Naval and Military Gazette how the French, and your subordinates specifically, violated Portuguese neutrality at Porto Praya several months ago, as well as the fact that you have apparently failed to give a public apology for that action. Then I am subjected to this level of arrogance that I speak of.

I expect you to act on this matter appropriately, or the complaints that I spoke of will be forwarded to your superiors, and in the meantime I can authorize a reduction or rescinding of services available to your ships in this port. I hope that this matter can be brought to a reasonable and satisfactory conclusion before events get carried away farther than they need to be.


Sir Haakon Dazs
Governor-General, Royal Danish Colony and Port  of Tranquebar
Rear Admiral, Royal Danish Navy
Knight, Order of the Elephant
Knight, Order of the Dannebrog

Prinsesse Benedikte i Trankebar

The visit of Princess Benedikte of Denmark to Chennai was an occasion for the Sanmar Group to renew the strong ties between the group and Denmark. Sanmar’s Danish connection dates back to 1947 when Chairman Emeritus K S Narayanan first visited the country on a training programme. In 1975, K S Narayanan became the first Indian to assume office as Consul for Denmark. He held this honorary post till 1989, handing over charge to the present Consul, N Sankar.

On a recent visit to India, Princess Benedikte spent much of her time on her pioneering work in diabetes research and control, particularly in a meeting of Chennai’s Diabetes Research Foundation and visiting the Arvind Eye Hospital in Madurai.

On March 12, 2004, N Sankar and Chandra Sankar hosted a dinner for the royal entourage, which was attended by a select list of invitees. One of the highlights of the evening was a brief ceremony to honour S B Prabhakar Rao, President-Corporate Affairs, Chemplast Sanmar, who is the Vice Consul for Denmark in South India. Princess Benedikte presented Prabhakar Rao with the Belonningsmedalje Med Krone in recognition of his outstanding services to the Danish cause in India for over 25 years. The first Indian to be so honoured, Prabhakar Rao received a silver medallion with a picture of Margrette-II, Queen of Denmark and the royal crown on top. The Ambassador for Denmark, Michael Sternberg, applauded Prabhakar Rao’s contribution in furthering Indo-Danish relations.

The Princess also visited the 17th Century Danish settlement of Tranquebar (Tarangambadi) or the Fort of Dansborg as the Danes originally called it. The neglected settlement is now being developed as a tourist site, with funding from the Danish monarchy and a voluntary agency.

Artikel om en tur fra Chennai til Trankebar

From Chennai to Tranquebar, Exploring the Colomandel Coast.

Prepared by Harold Stephens

Travel Correspondent for Thai Aiways International.

After a half century of independence from British colonial rule, the countries in Southeast Asia and the India subcontinent are still changing Anglicized place names to indigenous names. In Malaysia Port Swettenham became Port Klang, many streets in Kuala Lumpur adapted Malay names, and Hill Stations like Maxwell Hill became Malay. Burma is now Myanmar and Rangoon is Yangoon. Saigon has become Ho Chi Minh City, and so many more.

India has taken up her cause. Gazetteers are working over time changing names. We no longer call it Calcutta, but Kolkata, and Madras is now Chennai. I was just in Madras, I mean Chennai, and I find it difficult with name changes. I like the ring of Calcutta, Rangoon and Saigon. But the choice is not mine. Of course, for locals it’s not that difficult, including Thais. They never did call Bangkok by its Western name. To them Bangkok is Krung Thep.

Thai Airways International mapmakers are also kept busy, and with THAI now flying to Chennai, there are more queries—“Where’s that?”

It would be hard to miss Chennai. The city is the fourth largest city in India with a population of 6.4 million. It’s also the capital of Tamil Nadu and holds fat to Tamil culture. (The fishhead curry is the best in the world.)

I like Chennai; I find it exciting. But what I favour even more than the city itself is the outlying countryside, especially the drive south through towns like Mamallapuram, Pondicherry, and Tranquebar.

While Mamallapuram and Pondicherry are better known, Tranquebar is a name that’s not too familiar, but it’s a true discovery. It’s an old Danish fortress on the seacoast that played a very important role in the history of all Southeast Asia, especially in establishing Siam's first contact with Europe. A dozen years ago I made my first visit to the old fort with a friend who was writing a book on the history of the Danes in early Siam. He wanted to verify the existence of Tranquebar.

Our records were sketchy. We set off not knowing if the old fortress still existed. And when we stopped at a village 20 kilometres from the fort, it didn't look good. The locals not only didn't know where it was, but they had never heard of the place. Had we come all the way from Bangkok to reach a dead end?

We soon discovered, once we set off, that road through southeast India might be far off the tourist trail but that didn't mean the countryside was without interest. On the contrary, if you were to make a comparison by taking a stretch of road two kilometres long anywhere else in Asia, you would not find as much diversity, or call it activity, as you would in southern India. The reason is people. Given a one-word description of India, it would be people. And if you had a choice of colour, that would be brown.

The people of southern India, the dark-skinned Tamils, are everywhere. Stop your car on a seemingly empty stretch of road, and in minutes they appear by the hundreds, no, thousands. But you don't even have to stop your car. The roads for the people of India are their gathering place. They come to the roads to meet, hold prayers, demonstrate, sleep and in some cases even to die. Religious celebrations appear to be the main events, with everything from weddings to funerals taking place along the roads. Processions move along, swinging incense and beating on drums and cymbals. You might be driving forward in kilometres, but at times you feel you are going backwards into the pages of Kipling. Here are the hot, sweating, friendly faces he so well described, with their naked bodies, their bandy legs, forever toiling in the hot Indian sun.

And the country is brown. The fields are brown, the houses are brown, the people are brown. Even the green foliage on the trees is brown from dust. The many cattle, mostly cows and goats, help contribute to the brownness of the land. They eat every living thing , and some things that aren't, like the posters on the mud walls and on the tree trunks. No sooner are posters put up than cows come and eat them off. And following the cows are Tamil children, picking up the dung, which, our driver explained, is used for cooking fires. He also explained the reason for all the numbers on the trees. It appears they are government owned, and if they weren't, they would have long ago been chopped down.

Europeans gave the southeast coast of India a romantic name, calling it the Coromandel Coast. The name, known only to Europeans, came from a village 35 miles north of Madras, sorry I mean Chennai, formerly held by the Dutch. Charo was the Hindu name for race, one of the three dynasties controlling the Tamils to the south. The coast became known as Chola-Manaoloor, and was the scene of some significant events during the 17th and 18th centuries. Both France and England fought over Chennai and the seaports to the south.

Fifty-three miles to the south of Chennai is Mahabalipuram. What more romantic sounding name can there be? The port was once the main harbour and the naval base of the great Pallava Empire 1,200 years ago. It was known as the "City of the Seven Pagodas." Both shore and cave temples contain monolithic figures and bas-relief carvings, many out of solid rock.

Seeing the shore temples was encouraging. If these temples have withstood the ravages of the sea for some 12 centuries, then the fortress at Tranquebar might still be there. We explored other ruins and temples on the way south, at Pondicherry, Chiambaram and Tanjore. Pondicherry is most interesting. It’s a French town and wasn’t turned over to India until 1954. It was built to resemble Nice on the French Riviera.

Finally we left the trunk road and turned towards Tranquebar on the coast, or rather where we thought it should be. We were certain about the Tranquebar connection between Denmark and Siam. We knew the Danes had made contact with Siam as early as 1621, when they sailed from Tranquebar up the Chao Phraya River to Ayutthaya in attempt to capitalise on the overland "spice and silk" route between the Gulf of Siam and the Bay of Bengal. Much of early Siam's wealth then came from controlling the transshipment of goods between China and India.

Such trade concessions were what every maritime nation in Europe desperately wanted. The opening of sea routes made trade between East and West more profitable by ship. Nations were prepared to go to war for spices, commodities we can pick up at any corner market. But 200 years ago it was quite another thing. For this reason Denmark founded Tranquebar.

Denmark at the time was governed by King Christian IV who looked upon overseas trade as a means to enrich his country and himself. In 1616, the Dutch East India Company was formed, and the following year the King dispatched four ships to the Far East to establish trade with Ceylon.

The command was given to a 24-year-old sea captain, Ove Gjedde. The perilous, incredibly difficult voyage took two long years. Gjedde lost two ships at Cape Verde to French pirates and by the time they reached Ceylon, more than half of his crew had died on the voyage.

But Gjedde's troubles were only beginning. When his tiny, crippled fleet arrived in Ceylon, the Portuguese had won favour with the King of Kandy. Other European nations were no longer welcome. While stalling for time Gjedde sent Captain Crappe to explore the Coromandel Coast in hope of finding another suitable port they could use. It was a clever move. Captain Crappe singled out the Rajah of Tanjore and negotiated for a Danish concession at a small port called Tranquebar.

In September 1620, Gjedde arrived at Tranquebar and immediately set his men to work building a walled fortress that he called Dansborg. He appointed Captain Crappe governor and returned to Denmark with a hero's welcome. The following year it was Captain Crappe who sailed up the Chao Phraya River and secured a trade agreement with the King of Siam.

Things went well for the Danes at Tranquebar during the next two decades. The treaty with the Rajah of Tanjore was extended to include farmlands beyond the town, and Tranquebar now traded with Malacca on the coast of the Malay Peninsula. Ships arrived from Denmark with manufactured goods, including cannon and muskets, and they filled their holds with ivory and pepper.

Then came 1643 and war between Denmark and Sweden. Denmark could no longer send ships to the Far East and Tranquebar was all but forgotten. It wasn't until 1669, 26 years later, that the next Danish ship arrived. They found only one man alive, a corporal of the guards who had taken command and refused to surrender the fort.

Denmark quickly re-established her old trade routes and Tranquebar prospered. The town was further fortified and by 1690 had grown to more than 3,000 inhabitants, and soon Danes had rich farmlands along the coast. But Britain's increasing influence on the Indian subcontinent became a threat. The British merchant fleet was growing in strength and ships were now able to make the long passage from ports in China and Siam without making intermediate stops. By 1840, Denmark was bankrupt. Three years later, in 1843, she sold to the British East the port of Tranquebar and all the surrounding territories for 125,000 pounds sterling. Under the British, the importance of Tranquebar declined.

We drove the last few miles to Tranquebar, not knowing what to expect. We were astonished at what we found.

A few miles before we arrived at the partially walled town, the air turned cool as it blew in from the sea, a refreshing treat after the drive down the trunk road from Chennai. We passed through Land Gate, beneath an embossed Danish emblem, and entered not a town in ruins as we expected but a very pleasant community. Tranquebar was laid out in neat streets, well planned, with an eye for order. The architecture was European; thick stucco walls, massive pillars supporting classical pediments, carriage porches and verandahs on second storeys above the streets.

We studied our map, dated 1671. It showed the walled city with "Dansborg Castle" on the sea front. There were pagodas, a Portuguese church, the admiral's house, a mosque and numerous godowns. Three hundred and twelve years later most of the structures still stood, with the exceptions of the godowns. At each intersection we stopped and looked down the side streets. Each street had something different to see. There were, obviously, things that weren't on our plan, like Land Gate. We learned later that it wasn't built until 1792, after a French pattern. Also in 1845, two years after Denmark sold the colony, an impressive collector's Residence was constructed above the beach. Although it has been neglected, it's still a showpiece of India's past glories.

It was late afternoon when we first saw the fortress. The sun was low in the sky and cast a reddish glow across its facade, giving it a kind of strange animation. We almost expected Danish soldiers with tall muskets and pointed helmets to be standing on the ramparts behind the gun embrasures. And indeed, it was a great satisfaction to sit on the verandah of our rest house that night and look out at the fort. The next morning we were up at dawn and began exploring the fort.

It's a marvel that Dansborg Castle, with the Indian Ocean lapping at its very foundations, has withstood the passage of time. We walked along the ramparts, climbed up to the towers and edged our way into dark passages deep below, and we had the feeling that the Danes had left only the day before. Everything is that well preserved. A caretaker showed us the museum, a few old rusted cutlasses and clumps of musket ball. Souvenir-hunters had taken everything else of value over the years.

From the ramparts we looked out at the sea. Tranquebar has no port. Ships had to anchor offshore while loading and unloading their cargoes. The old square-rigged ships are gone, but the Tamil fishermen still pull their slender fishing craft up on the beach as they did when Admiral Gjedde and Captain Crappe first arrived. We could only imagine what the lone corporal must have felt when he waited 26 years for a Danish ship to arrive. But it was due to his efforts and to those who preceded him that Dansborg fortress was built and ties with Siam and Europe began.

When THAI began her recent flights to Chennai, I revisited the city, but I was unable to make the drive to Tranquebar. When I asked around if anyone knew about the town, they all said, “Where’s that?” I am sure it hasn’t changed, and I am planning to return. That will be another report for our Weekly Travel Feature.

Next week I would like to give readers a travel quiz about names and terms used in Thailand and her neighbours. For example, do you know what a kati is, a term used often in Asia? Next week you will find out.

Dear Mr. Harold Stephens.
I read your very interesting article "From Chennai to Tranquebar". I find it very interesting because of my interest in this town and area. I am Danish and one of the promoters in the project of restoring the 400 years old Fort Dansborg in the former Danish colony Tranquebar in South India. We have formed the "Tranquebar Association" with members from other countries—Danish people with relationships to the first governor Admiral Ove Giedde who founded the colony and built Fort Dansborg

In 2002 we had a permission from the Tamil authorities to do this big work and here in 2004 the whole work has finished. Not only Fort Dansborg is interesting. The whole town and their inhabitants are our interests. The Landgate is also restored, in 2002, by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). Now a new wall around the 400 years old Danish cemetery is rebuild. The permission was given by the Bishop of CSI (Church of South India). We now have co-operation with the Danish National Museum and a group from there just has visited Tranquebar. That means that in future there will be much more tourism in Tranquebar.

You can find much more about Tranquebar and all the projects in our website which I intend to link to your article. Yours sincerely, Bent Christensen, President of the Tranquebar Association.

Such comments are appreciated..
Thanks you, Bent.



The Moravian Church is one of the Oldest but still one of the smallest of the Protestant denominations. It was a pioneer of modern Protestant Missionary work. It traces its, origin to Bohemia and Moravia, regions, in Central Europe in the fifteenth century.

After the martyrdom of John Hus at Constance in 1415 his ardent followers founded the "Unity of Brethren" in 1457 in Bohemia. The members of the Brethren Church increased day by day in the provinces of Bohemia, Moravia and Poland. But they were almost wiped out during the thirty years war between Catholics and Protestants (1618 - 1648) and the members had to go underground. In 1722 a group of underground members led by one Christian David emigrated from Moravia to Saxony, new in East Germany and founded the new town of Herrnhut (The Lord's Watch) on the estate of Count Nikolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf and renewed the ancient "Unity of Brethren" under the leadership of count Zinzendorf1. Since Brethren emigrated from Moravia to Saxony they were popularly called "Moravians". In 1732 the Moravians sent their first missionaries to preach to the Black Slaves in the West Indies. To day the Moravians do missionary work in many parts of the world.

Count Zinzendorf had great influence in the Danish royal court and with the officials of the Danish East India Company at Copenhagen, the Capital City of Denmark. It should be noted with interest that the coming of the Moravians to Tranquebar was quite accidental. In 1758 Count Zinzendorf happened to read an article in an Erlangen Newspaper about the sad and pitiable plight of the peer and the downtrodden in Iceland. He wrote to Fredrick V, the King of Denmark seeking permission to establish a Moravian Colony in Iceland2. But the King thought otherwise. His Highness expressed his desire through Count von Moltke, president of the Danish East India Company for a Moravian settlement at Tranquebar as a base to preach the Gospel in the Nicobar Islands, a newly acquired Danish colony, popularly known in Europe as "Fredrick Islands". Royal patronage and Insurance, protection by the East India company, religious liberty and other attendant privileges were promised. Count Zinzendorf agreed to the proposal. Fourteen unmarried men were selected with George F. Stahlmann as their leader. Two students of theology Adam Voelker and Christian Butler were to do specific missionary work. while the others who were artisans representing different trades were charged with the maintenance of the enterprise. They were commissioned on 28 September 1759 in Zeist in Holland. They departed on November 7, 1759 from Copenhagen along with the new Governor Herrman Jacob Forch in the ship "Grev Moltke" and arrived at Tranquebar on July 2 17603.
In Tranquebar neither the company officials nor the Danish Halle missionaries were informed about the coming of the Moravians. Therefore when the Moravians landed at Tranquebar they were looked with shock and surprise. Therefore from Day number one the Danish - Halle Missionaries looked at the Moravians with suspicion and ill-will which led to a number of unpleasant developments in the later years.

The Moravians had brought with them ample funds. "Schwartz mentions Rs. 50,000. About a mile from the city they bought a garden with a farm house hear Porayar for Rs. 3,300. This was the so called "Brother Garden"4. Immediately they started building a House and workshops. They dug wells, deepened the three ponds and planted Hundreds of coconut, palm, areca nut and other fruit bearing Trees. They began to cultivate the lands.

Meanwhile the second batch consisting of five unmarried men and four couples under the leadership of Nikolaus Andreas Jaesshke arrived at Tranquebar on 27 August 1761. Dr. A. Betschler is a notable personality in the second batch. In the subsequent years more brothers and sisters Game to Tranquebar. Between 1760 and 1792 a total number of 73 brothers and sisters were sent to Tranquebar. Among them there were 4 merchants, 5 students of theology, 2 lay preachers, 6 surgeons, 3 medical doctors, 10 carpenters, 3 Tanners, 1 Boat builder, 5 shoe makers, 3 Tailors, 3 Watchmakers, 3 specialists in agriculture, 2 Blacksmiths, 2 Farriers, 1 organist, 1 maker of socks, 1 Lock smith and 1 miller and a few far on hands.

Things did not work out as expected for the Moravians. Even before the arrival of the Moravians at Tranquebar, the East India Danish Company had withdrawn from Nicobar Islands and had suspended traffic to Nicobars since most of the people sent to the Nicobars had died away. The Brethren had to wait until the Danish East India Company opened up traffic to Nicobars5. Thus the Brethren had to wait for 8 long years at Tranquebar without any ship to Nicobars. But their mission at the Nicobar Islands was always at the uppermost of their minds. In Tranquebar in the middle of the pond on the western side the Brethren made a small island and named it "Nicobar Islands". They made a small wooden beat and it had been floating in the pond always reminding the Brethren their mission at the Nicobar Islands.
The Brethren concentrated on Intensive agricultural operations and Handicrafts and other Trades. They purchased the adjacent paddy fields and on the eastern side their paddy fields extended up to the shores of the Indian Ocean. Their cattle population consisted of more than 100 small! and big animals of various kinds.

Apart from cultivating the Asiatic agricultural products they cultivated grapes and potatoes, In July 1761 the first grape stems were planted in the Brother garden, The Brethren sold fresh grapes as well as raisins on a large scale to the public in and around Tranquebar. They named the Uppanar canal that still runs on the Western side of their erstwhile settlement as St. Peter's Brook. The made a small mount near their residence and named it Mount Olives. They used to pray on the top of the Mount Olives.
Since only one paddy harvest was possible in a year, the Brethren adopted modern methods of agriculture and on an average they were harvesting 140 Khots a year (1 Khot approximately 30 Bushels).

The handicraft skills of the Brethren had spread far along the Coromandal Coast. People from Karaikal, Nagapattinam and Cuddalore and the Europeans from the Dutch and English colonies and the refugees from the French Territories Game in large numbers to watch the Brethren doing handicraft works in the workshops and to purchase handicraft goods. The shoes made in the Brother garden were in great demand. The Governor of Tranquebar, the Governors of the nearby colonies and the Europeans and the Military Officers placed heavy orders that same times the Brethren could not take up orders for want of workforce. The cute jewel Boxes made out of sandal wood with silken layers inside were very much in demand among the Europeans and the rich beyond the boundaries of Tamil Nadu. The artistic, and sophisticated wood works of the Moravians with delicate carvings and designs had wide acclaim and appreciation from all quarters. It is believed that the four ornamental chairs with high back still kept in the New Jerusalem Church, Tranquebar had been made by the Moravian Carpenter Jonas Nystedt.6
The Moravian Brethren were not only skilled artisans but same of them had solid medical training with the help of which they could build a positive image on the Southern Coromandal coast. It is to be noted that Dr. Andreas Betschler was very efficient and popular. He was frequently sought after by the sick Europeans, and others. The Danish Governor used to take treatment from him. Over the years the Brother garden had become a medical centre for the public.

On hearing about the handicraft skills and the medical Expertise of the Brethren many royal
courts in India extended their invitation to the Brethren to establish their settlements in their respective territories. For instance captain Berg in Tanjore with due permission from the King of Tanjore invited 12 of the Moravians at Tranquebar to settle in any part of the dominions of the King of Tanjore7. But the Brethren declined the offer. Likewise the English Governor in Bengal extended his invitation to the Brethren to establish a settlement in Bengal.8
The Brethren at Tranquebar enjoyed good relation with the Danish Governor, the company officials, the Europeans, the French refugees, the natives and the Hindus. The local people were very much impressed by the conduct of the Brethren and the natives called them saints or "Nyanigol" (Wisemen). The Danish Governor used to visit the Brother Garden very often.

In August 1765 from Tranquebar Brothers Jacques Gay and Michael Mueller went to Colombo in Ceylon for missionary work. Michael Mueller died on the way and Buttler was sent in his place. But unfortunately neither the local govt. nor the local church wanted their service. Hence they left Ceylon in 1769.
Finally in the year 1768 the Danish East India Company decided to open up traffic to the Nicobar Islands and establish a military and trading post on the Island of Nancauwery. In the first batch six brethren under the leadership of Michael Kund were sent. Two died soon after their arrival. Between 1768 and 1787 altogether 23 Brethren were sent to the island Nancauwery. In 1773 the Danes left the Island and the Brethren had the additional responsibility of protecting the Danish properties from other powers. The Brethren had a very very difficult time at Nancauwery. They had to dear the forests to build their settlement. Most of the time they were cut off from Tranquebar due to jack of frequency of ships. As a result very often they had to live without any news, medicines, shoes, even oil and soap. The Brothers had to sell coconuts and ARECANUTS to make both ends meet. "They were often on the verge of starvation .................. They suffered from the diseases of the liver ................. They died in large numbers ................ from fever ............. they never succeeded in learning the native language.9

With the success of Schwartz in the English colony an invitation came to the Brethren from the Danish company to initiate missionary work at Serampore in Bengal. John Grassman and others were sent there in 1777, seven years later James Latrobe was sent to Patna. This mission also ended in complete failure. The reasons being (1) The Missionaries had to earn their own living and had little time for preaching. (2) The other Christians either belonged to the Greek church or the church of Rome and they opposed the Brethren vehemently (3) an account of the caste system they had little chance of coming into close touch with the natives.
Tranquebar too proved a place most costly in precious lives. More than 30 Brethren succumbed to tropical diseases. There was dearth of manpower.

The various discouraging features of the mission new forced the unity's Elders' conference to undertake a thorough investigation of its conditions and prospects Bishop John Fredrick Reichel was charged with this important duty.10 The Bishop came to Tranquebar with same Brethren who were to remain in the event of the continuance of the undertaking. For five months June to October 1786 Reichel thoroughly looked into the state of affairs and had frequent conferences with the missionaries. It was decided to abandon all the outposts. This took effect for Patna at once, and the Nicobar Islands and Serampore later 1788 and 1791 respectively. At Tranquebar changes were effected in the hope of a more successful prosecution of the work. The situation did not change for a better. Finally in 1795 after Ion g hesitation the unity's Elders' conference determined upon complete withdrawal from the East Indies. The Brethren at Tranquebar started leaving for Europe at the Earliest. Two Brethren JOH. RUDLF WEBER and JOH. GOTTLIEB RAMSCH remained in the Brother Garden till 1803 to sell the Garden at an acceptable price. After selling the Garden for a handsome price they too left Tranquebar bringing the curtains down on an unsuccessful undertaking.

This vain, wasteful and senseless missionary enterprise has swallowed large sums of money and many valuable, talented lives. More than 40 precious lives were last and approximately 100,000 Danish Thalers spent. Out of 73 Brothers and sisters sent 33 died at Tranquebar, 13 died at the Nicobar Islands, 6 left the brotherhood and look up gainful employment in India (They too died in India), I brother had to be expelled for having become an incorrigible alcoholic, the remaining 20 left for Europe.

If one makes a cost benefit analysis the return from this enterprise in terms of conversion is very very meager and negligible. During the four decades of missionary work in the East Indies they could make only 6 conversions, one in the Nicobars, one in Bengal and the remaining four in the main land of the East Indies. Same say that the converted four were European slaves.

The Moravian Enterprise may appear wasteful and fruitless. But the burning missionary zeal, the unflagging courage, the unconditional readiness for sacrifice, the rock like faith of the innocent Moravian Brothers and sisters should win the respect and sympathy of all Christians.

The Danish Tranquebar Association

The Danish Tranquebar Association was established in 2002 with the objective to strengthen the historical and cultural cooperation between


1.        Restoration of the first part of the old Danish Fort

Restoration of the
Gate by Archaelogical Survey of
Restoration of the graveyard in Nygade (

4.        After the Tsunami

a.        the collection of money from the Danish people to start the construction of a huge

                    granite coastal protection.

the purchase of a water tank lorry to the town of

        5.   found the funding for restoration of the Danish Governor´s Bungalow.

Renovation of Ziegenbald´s Prayer House in
Collected historical materials for the museum at
Establishment of
as a Danish-Indian cultural center.
Established a department of marine archaeology at the

               explore the sea bed outside Tranquebar.

, The Shipwreck Museum St. George to engage in historical work in Tranquebar. Our work has also engaged the Bestseller Fund in doing development work in the area.
As a consequence of our work in Tranquebar we have attracted others such as the

As another result of our engagement we have been involved in in setting up a branch of Intach in Tranquebar with the aim of preserving historical buildings in the town.

in 2002 we were very happy to receive the appreciation from the government of Tamil Nadu.
At the celebration after the restoration of the first part of
If you want any further information about the Danish Tranquebar Association you are kindly invited to visit
where you can get a booklet with photos and text in Tamil, Danish and English.

On behalf of the Danish Tranquebar Association

Mrs. Karin Knudsen


The Danish Tranquebar Association
Ideas and projects
The last decade has witnessed the development of a renewed interest in Tranquebar as an important monument of more than two centuries of Indian and Danish cooperation and intercultural exchange. This new development started when a handful of Danes who were involved in a school project in Tamil Nadu. After visiting Tranquebar and seeing the bad preservation standard of the old Danish fort they got the idea to work for its restoration. At first the project was simply to paint the main building where the Danish government had his residence during the first century of Danish presence in India. They were happy to get permission from the government of Tamil Nadu to restore the building and invested their own money and work to make things done. Inspired by this initiative the government of Tamil Nadu took over and fulfilled the restoration of the fort that was inaugurated in 2002 with both the Indian and the Danish flag flying from the top of the tower as a token of mutual friendship and interest in preserving our common cultural heritage. During the restoration period the old Danish landgate was restored by ASI and in Denmark The Danish Tranquebar Association was created. At present it has more than 300 dedicated members.
After the successful restoration of the fort the association undertook the cleaning and restoration of the graveyard in New Street. Before the end of this work happened the horrible tsunami of 2004. As a result the inauguration of the graveyard became a joint ceremony in memory of the victims of the tsunami in which more than thousand inhabitants from all religious groups in Tranquebar took part.
When the tsunami hit the town in December 2004 The Danish Tranquebar Association collected money in Denmark to help the hard hit fishermen´s community to get new boats. But at the request of the fishermen´s leaders the money was instead used to construct a huge granite coastal protection with permission from the government. The Danish money made it possible to build the first part and fulfilled the work. The association also bought a water tank lorry to the town and engaged in social help.
Partly as a consequence of the work of The Danish Tranquebar Association the Danish Bestseller Fund became interested in doing development work in Tranquebar. Bestseller has established an education of women in restoring Tamil buildings in order to preserve the Tamil cultural heritage. Bestseller has also started some projects for strengthening traditional skills, established a nursery for plants that are suitable for coastal protection and a public park at the seaside. The Fund has also started a bank for micro credit loans to help people without money to establish their own busines.
After restoration of the graveyard in New Street The Danish Tranquebar Association procured funding for restoration of the Danish Governor´s bungalow. As a result of this and of our work in Tranquebar as a whole a permission was obtained and a project was developed by the Danish National Museum in cooperation with Tamil authorities. The work is done by INTACH. The restoration of the building will according to the plan be finished March 2011.
Since the restoration of Dansborg in 2002 The Danish Tranquebar Association has worked hard to make it possible to restore the former Danish Commander`s building next to the Danish Governer´s building. Formerly the house was used by TELC as teacher training college. At present the building has collapsed, however. We have already procured the necessary funding for such a project, but we still haven´t been able to reach an agreement with TELC about either renting or buying the building.
We have renovated the roof of Ziegenbalg´s Prayer House in Admiral Street and we have fought for a renovation of the Sri Masillamani Temple. We are happy to see that this project is now under way.
We have helped Mr. Sultan from The Danish Shop to have the first edition of his book about the history and buildings of Tranquebar printed and published.
Ever since the beginning of our engagement we have been helping the museum at Dansborg to procure historical materials.
In order to strengthen the Indian-Danish cooperation the Tranquebar Association decided to establish Tranquebar Maritime Museum as a common cultural center. Because fishery has such an important role in the history and culture of Tranquebar it was obvious for us that the first exhibition should be about the fishermen and their history. We collected a wide range of items for this first exhibition that was opened in February 2010 by the leaders of the fishermen and representatives from our association. Since the opening the museum it has been situated in Van Theilingen´s House in King´s Street, the former residence of the Danish doctor. We have hired a former local headmaster with a strong interest in history to take care of the daily business. Until now the museum has had more than 10.000 visitors – a very fine and enjoyable outcome indeed! The museum has a department for marine archaeology the object of which is to explore the sea bed along the coast of Tranquebar where sailing ships have anchored in the Danish period from 1620 to 1845. During these two hundred and twenty five years goods have been brought from the ships through the huge waves to the beach. Often goods were lost in this process and we have knowledge of a number of shipwrecks in the Tranquebar area. Therefore an exciting part of our common cultural heritage lies hidden in the sea bed. Already our Maritime Department has explored the sea bed outside Fort Dansborg with a proton magnetometer which is an instrument that identifies metallic items on the bottom of the sea. This has given us the precise GPS-positions of a great number of such items still lying down there. In February 2011 a crew of professional divers will arrive from Denmark to explore this exciting area in depth.
Because Van Theilingen´s House is facing a total restoration we are now working to move the museum to a house and plot that we have rented in Queen´s Street. Here we plan to reopen the museum in the beginning of 2011 with an exciting exhibition about a historical type of boat, the Selling. This boat is locally known as a masula boat or a big net fishing boat. It was used for sailing goods to and from the big ships that were anchoring at sea. It was handled by 8 or 10 rowers and was also used for fishing. What makes the Selling so special is that its planks are sewn together. In this way the boat gets a high elasticity that makes it extremely suitable to pass through the strong surf of the Coromandel Coast.
The last Selling in Tranquebar was lost during the tsunami of 2004 and no museum in the world has cared to preserve a Selling. During the last year we have therefore explored the coast from Chennai to Nagapattinam in the hope to find one for our museum. Now we have finally found the remnants of a Selling and we have contact with experienced boat builders who as part of the new exhibition will restore the boat in presence of the visitors. In this way the museum will be turned into what we call a living museum.
In the Danish Tranquebar Association we are very happy that the government in Tamil Nadu has nominated Tranquebar as a major touristic place and provided great sums for the development of the town i.e. investment in better water supply, better roads, a more reliable system of electricity supply, a better sewage system and that the Dept. of Public Work has started on the big project of beautifying the square in front of the fort. In the future it will be possible to walk around the square on beautiful granite stones and to sit down for a while on one of the benches under shadowy trees and traditional Danish lamps to enjoy the atmosphere of the special environment.
We are also happy that the Bestseller Fund at our initiative has made a system for collecting and sorting waste in Tranquebar that both inhabitants and visitors appreciate very much.
When the first Danish ship anchored at Tranquebar in 1620 a cooperation between India and Denmark was introduced. It is the wish of the Danish Tranquebar Association that this cooperation will proceed and grow in the future for the benefit of both countries.

Foreningen Trankebar arbejder for at bevare kolonitidens danske levn i Trankebar, formidle kendskabet til den dansk-indiske historie i området, samt skabe et dansk–indisk møde- og kursussted i byen.

Den stiftende generalforsamling for “Foreningen Trankebar” blev afholdt d. 21. maj 2002 på Vestfyns Efterskole i Tommerup. Foreningen er registreret hos ToldSkat med SE-nr. 27 44 89 84.